Woman says Mormon church failed to report dad’s sexual abuse

Stock image | Photo courtesy of Favor_of_God via iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A woman who claims in a lawsuit that her father sexually abused her as a child said Thursday that Mormon church leaders allowed the sexual assault to continue by failing to report it to police.

Kristy Johnson said at a news conference that her now-deceased mother told local church leaders in Utah and California about the abuse multiple times during the 1960s-1970s. Her father, Melvin Kay Johnson, a church employee who worked for the religious education arm of the faith, was relocated to different cities by the church after each report but police were not contacted, she alleges in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Utah.

Johnson, now in her mid-50s and living in La Habra, California, said she finally reported the abuse to police in California in 1986 when she returned from a Mormon mission. Her father was never arrested but the church kicked him out. He was allowed back one year later after he went before a church court and persuaded them he had repented, the woman said.

Melvin Kay Johnson, who now lives in Lehi, Utah, did not respond to a voicemail left at a listed phone number.

The Mormon church isn’t named in Johnson’s lawsuit because of statute of limitation rules, but the allegations follow other lawsuits that allege the religion hasn’t properly handled sexual abuse reports.

Read more: Woman says Mormon church knew of her abuser’s history

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ spokesman Eric Hawkins didn’t immediately comment about the lawsuit.

The lawsuits have put the spotlight on how the church handles sexual abuse, forcing the religion to explain and re-examine what its lay leaders who run local congregations are supposed to do when a church member confides in them about being abused.

Some Mormons have expressed dismay that they were counseled to stay in abusive relationships or keep matters in house.

The church says it has “zero tolerance” for abuse of any kind and announced in March a set of updated guidelines for how the male bishops should handle sexual assault reports. The guidelines direct them to never to disregard a report of abuse, a more direct instruction than previous guidelines, and to call a church hotline that will help them sort out to help victims and report the crime.

The Associated Press does not usually name victims of sexual assault, but Johnson said she decided to go public with her story following deaths in recent years of her mother and brother, which she says emboldened her to seek justice.

A documentary about her story, called “Glass Temples,” is debuting Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

Johnson said the abuse started when she was 6 and continued until she was 18. Her father would come into her bedroom at night and assault her, she said. She would try to listen for her father’s footsteps and then flip on the light and act as if she was studying Scriptures to have an excuse for him to go away, she said.

“But sometimes I didn’t hear him and I would wake up and he would be doing stuff to me,” said Johnson, crying. “I would blame myself.”

Like other people who have sued over child sexual abuse they say occurred in Mormon families, Johnson said her experience illustrates systemic problems in the church. She believes her mother, who divorced her father in the 1980s, didn’t report the abuse because she acquiesced to Mormon culture that called for abuse reports to be handled internally.

She said the abuse made her question if there was a God and has impacted her ability to reach her professional goals, trust people and have healthy relationships. She is divorced with one child and doesn’t currently have a job.

“It is a lifetime sentence for victims,” said Johnson. “You can get as much therapy as you want, but it’s something that is always with you.”

Vernon, her attorney, contended the religion deals with abuse reports as sins, rather than crimes. He has represented others who have sued the church, including McKenna Denson, who accuses a former missionary training center director of raping her in the 1980s.

He urged the religion to instruct members to report abuse directly to police, not the bishops.

“Is the church going to protect sexual predators with their policy and culture or are they going to protect children?” Vernon asked.

Written by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • IPFreely June 28, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Here we go again… let’s blame the LDS church fo all of our problems. It’s a he said she said situation. This is the problem with society today. There is no accountability. It’s always someone else’s fault.

    • comments June 28, 2018 at 7:38 pm

      Back in those days it was sort of a cultural thing for wife-beating, child molestation, and often times rape to just be swept under the rug. The catholic clergy were frantically molesting kiddies like it was goin’ out of style back then. Nothing unique to mormonism with respect to cases like this. Warren Jeffs and shortcreek were very unique in the respect that it was enabled by Utah’s LDS church/state system of gov’t.

      • johncmiller June 28, 2018 at 8:00 pm

        Wow what a stupid jab at the Mormons. What an ignorant, stereotypical anti Mormon statement. Are you really that stupid? Go away and get a life outside of a comment section where you can’t even have the dignity to use your name when speaking with such arrogance. Coward.

        • IPFreely June 28, 2018 at 8:47 pm


        • comments June 28, 2018 at 9:43 pm

          how sad it is that you’re so brainwashed and indoctrinated that you fail to see the hypocrisy of our LDS church.

          • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 11:22 am

            You keep saying “our” not sure you know what that means

          • comments June 30, 2018 at 1:59 pm

            It means I’m a member, doofus. Have been since I was 8. 😉

        • think4urself June 28, 2018 at 10:28 pm

          Typical comment from someone being self righteousness and attempting to defend the LDS church.Look in the mirror and see who your other three fingers are pointing back to. I would say the reflection your seeing is the not so bright one here. What he is saying has a lot, too many!, facts to back him up.

          • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 11:23 am

            You claim facts… what are they

      • IPFreely June 28, 2018 at 8:26 pm

        Jeff’s has nothing to do with the LDS church.

        • comments June 28, 2018 at 9:42 pm

          Jeffs is a product of the original LDS church as it was founded, hence ‘FLDS’. They worship the same Joseph Smith and use the same mormon bible as the LDS. get informed 😉 .

          • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 4:58 am

            Sure sure… whatever little tidbit you have to grasp at to try and make a point

          • comments June 29, 2018 at 10:55 am

            you really are clueless. I looked up ‘IP Freely’–very very cute. Stupid as hell, but cute. 😉

          • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 12:05 pm

            Ok… ya creep

        • Rob83 June 29, 2018 at 10:02 pm

          On case you didn’t know. Joesph Smith is what started the FLDS church. Try and argue that?

          • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 10:35 am

            Hahaha… nice try

          • comments June 30, 2018 at 2:01 pm

            It’s true, Rob. The FLDS will claim their founder to be the one and only Prophet Joseph Smith. They will also claim their cult to be “the one true church” the same way LDS does.

          • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 2:17 pm

            I claim I am Obama’s half cousin… get the picture.. morons

      • Rob83 June 29, 2018 at 10:12 pm

        It’s true Comments and I am wondering if I should turn someone I know in. He walked into a home, uninvited, the lady was passed out drunk and he molested her for 3 hours while on his mission. He got caught and ex-communicated, but the lady never knew because he was never reported to the authorities. I have his written testimony that he did this and yes it was addressed to me and it is still bothers me that I know this but am not sure what I’m supposed to do about it if there is even anything I can do about it. Fact is, he clearly invaded the law and the church assisted him in doing so, so deeply disturbing to me.

        • comments June 30, 2018 at 11:04 am

          If you don’t know the identity of the victim I’m not sure there’s anything you can do. If you do know then turn the info over to her and let her decide what to do with it. Or just turn it over to police and let them decide. I believe the statute of limitation still applies to sex crimes where the victim was an adult, so there’s that to consider. The church will protect their own–the only things that truly scare them are bad publicity and losing $$$. They operate like a typical big corporation.

    • bikeandfish June 28, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      Revealing all of your true colors today, huh? And what accountability does a woman have for her sexual assault and rape when she was a minor, at the hands of her father? Clearly that was the fault of the father. Yet, churches like the LDS have always recommended seek their aid and counsel in such moments. And they failed her and her mother. This wasn’t unique to the LDS as such family abuse was commonly swept under the rug by people in power in the US. Heck, husbands could legally rape their spouses in the US until the late 70s to late 80s in some places.

      Not sure where this woman is blaming “the LDS church for all of our problems”. I only see her naming them explicitly as obstructing justice and failing to do what was moral and right.

      • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 4:59 am

        As stated in the article. She should have contacted the police

        • bikeandfish June 29, 2018 at 12:04 pm

          Yep, blame the 6 year old girl. That is a smart approach with alot of compassion, huh?

          • comments June 29, 2018 at 4:18 pm

            This IPF idiot is simply not worth the time. It’s like a more vindictive version of John. hahaha

          • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 11:25 am

            Her whole story is conjecture and we honestly don’t know the whole story and never will

          • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 11:26 am

            I could be an inbred comment..

    • jaybird June 28, 2018 at 9:56 pm

      And just who do you thinnk IS to blame when the church chooses to hide the perversions instead of decently protecting that child. Pervert.

      • think4urself June 28, 2018 at 10:32 pm

        Thank you for your comment. You are absolutely right. The church was very wrong to excommunicate him but then not report the abuse to authorities!!! SO wrong. And if you, bikeandfish, can’t see that YOU are part of what is wrong with the world today!

        • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 5:00 am

          She should have reported the abuse… not the Church

          • think4urself June 29, 2018 at 7:47 am

            The church should be doing what a counselor/therapist or school authority does when they are informed of the abuse. They have a responsibility to report it to the police!!

        • bikeandfish June 29, 2018 at 7:23 am

          Huh? I 100% agree. Did you mean IPFreely as I clearly think the church failed her.

          • think4urself June 29, 2018 at 7:44 am

            Ooops. I didn’t follow the lines correctly. I apologize.

          • bikeandfish June 29, 2018 at 7:58 am

            no worries, i’ve made the same mistake.

          • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 12:04 pm

            Keep up… geez

        • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm

          Liberal logic… gotta love it.

          • think4urself June 29, 2018 at 1:06 pm

            More like common sense logic that you clearly do not have.

          • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 9:50 pm

            Nice come back..

    • No Filter June 29, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Considering that the LDS church has it’s grimy little hands in everything, it is safe to say that they can be blamed for behavior like this especially in the time frame this abuse happened. This kind of sick and twisted crap happens all over the place and in every religion, but since we live in Utah, the LDS church gets the blame today. Keep preaching that anti-porn teachings on Sundays, it seems to be working great!

      • comments June 29, 2018 at 4:20 pm

        well, yea, they do deserve the blame.

        • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 10:20 pm

          And McDonald’s made you fat

  • Gcia June 28, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Here’s an idea, if you are being abused and you want it reported, how about you call the police! Your mother failed to protect you, not the church. You reported it to the church and they took religious action, they are not the police. I was assaulted by a creepy neighbor and after a little bit of time, I talked to my bishop about it in one of my yearly interviews, just to help myself feel better. My parents chose not to report it to the police. I still think about it today but never once did I blame the church, or feel that they should have reported it for me. Sorry, but this one is on your parents, dad for being a sick pig, and mom for not reporting it.

    • Snarkles June 29, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Exactly. Since the church has to be politically correct now to minimize lawsuits, perhaps the Bishop could keep a stack of notes with the phone number of the police department and child protective services on it and hand them to whoever accuses a parent or anyone else of inappropriate behavior. Then, if legally proven guilty, they can take measures to disfellowship or excommunicate that person.

  • Sheri June 28, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    I definitely believe the church should be held accountable when they know of sexual assaults and then fail to report it to law enforcement.
    It isn’t a matter if he said she said or blaming anyone. It’s a matter of not being a complete piece of … . I don’t care if it’s a teacher, adult friend, clergy, or anyone else .. if sexual assault is being reported and you do nothing then yeah, you should be held accountable and if you are acting on behalf of a company or organization then it should open them up to being held accountable as well.
    Ed. ellipsis

  • Nobody June 29, 2018 at 5:04 am

    I agree with most of the comments, the church is to blame. They have a responsibility take action in a situation such as this. However they are notorious to keep things like this “hush hush”. The mom is to blame as well for letting her indoctrination cloud her judgement. Mormons around here are known to not “rock the boat”. Heavens forbid, somebody actually stood up against the church. Hmm, sounds very “cult-like” to me. Nuff said……

    • comments June 29, 2018 at 11:07 am

      I’ll state state again: there was nothing unique to mormonism about how this kind of stuff was handled in the 60s and 70s and maybe 80s even. It really was a cultural thing of the time that child sexual abuse, domestic abuse, etc were very hush hush topics. Even if police had become involved they may not have done anything. It was probably also quite well known among many people that catholic clergy had a penchant for fondling and molesting little children back in those days, but again there was this culture of hush hush & mind your own business. If this woman in this story isn’t able to dig up documentation of her supposed reports she is simply grasping at straws, looking for anyone to blame.

      But go ahead and move on to the topic of ritual CSA within FLDS cults (where johncmiller has his little hissy fits) and the LDS should actually not get a pass, because they have been the enablers for many many decades.

    • IPFreely June 29, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Hahahaha.. and McDonald’s made me fat.

      • Rob83 June 29, 2018 at 10:21 pm

        Ok, McDonald’s is a food joint (that has MSG’s in it, to make you addicted to their food BTW, LOL) . The LDS CULT is no better than the FLDS CULT. Can you sheeples please wake up already or you all enjoy being part of the Masonic Cult whom admittedly worship Lucifer? Do 10 minutes of research on if the LDS is true and try not to deny God after finding out that it’s not, wake up already, I’m tired of it..

        • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 10:37 am

          You have too much time on your hands… but I guess I do too.. hahaha

          • comments June 30, 2018 at 2:04 pm

            You and a nice little boy named Dump or “striker4” should get together and help each other find jobs. Mommy’s basement and excessive use of video games can’t really be considered a “career path”. 😉

          • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 2:18 pm

            Ouch… that hurts

  • Mike P June 29, 2018 at 9:17 am

    I’m gunna have a beer. Just one. I’m not going to blame anyone. I will be responsible for my own actions. What a concept.

    • Rob83 June 29, 2018 at 10:34 pm

      Well Mike, 1 beer isn’t going to ruin you for the rest of your life. This lady had the courage to finally speak up about being betrayed by everyone she trusted, she deserves compensation, more like acknowledgment of what happened to her and I hope she can find the postive out of all the cruelty she’s been forked out. She looks back now thinking to herself, no doubt, wow a six year old up against her own parents and a church she trusted because she didn’t know any better. I pray for her to find peace after this has all been dealt with.

      • Mike P June 30, 2018 at 9:23 am

        Rob, True that. My response was not in reference to this woman. Just the circumstances and the finger pointing.

      • IPFreely June 30, 2018 at 10:38 am

        Don’t forget she should have contacted the Police

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